Since we moved from Newtown, Sydney to Blackheath, Blue Mountain in Year 2000 and then to a beautiful countryside of southern Tasmania in Year 2003, we progressively reduce our food choices from thirty plus of different café and restaurants in proximity of 5km radius to only two that we considered as really good food and worth eating out. So what do we do in this situation? We ended up cooking more at home than going out. Not that there is anything wrong with it. I wish we have done this earlier as we end up spending less by not eating out five times a week and enjoy our home more (not just a “house” anymore!). We also throw more dinner party at home.
We all like a dinner party, whether it is with a family or a group of friends. But have you ever been to a dinner party that you just want the night to be over? What about, have you ever been in a situation where you are invited to a dinner party and you can’t be bothered to go (because you have been there once or twice before and you really hate it. LOL!), but not sure what excuses to give?
Well, what I am trying to say is, if you are the guests, you do not have much control on “what to expect” at a dinner party and you have to be in your “good” behaviour or you will never be invited back again. That is, if you want to be invited back. On the other hand, if you are the host, you have all the control on who to invite and what type of food you will put on the table. So, which role would you prefer to be in? The host or the guest?
I like being the host because I like to cook for my guests and enjoy seeing a happy smile and face when they have the first taste of my dishes. Also, I enjoy setting up the table, light a few candles and play some music to set the mood for an enjoyable night. The other thing that I enjoy is when the guests arrive and ring the door bell. I will open the door and welcome them into our home. It is just like running my own little restaurant. 🙂 The next thing is to let them relax and settle in, open a bottle of champagne or wine and have a toast. This first step is important to set the mood for a good and enjoyable dinner.
What are the success factors for a good dinner party? In my opinion, it has to be the company, the food and the ambiance in that order. It is the same as going out to a restaurant. If the company is “unbearable” even if the food and the place are good, you will not enjoy the night one hundred percent. So you will either drink more to get piss and forget about that piece of “unbearable” tosser at the other end of the table, or you can just sit there and feel like at any moment, you will jump from your chair and strangle that person.
Let me get back to my dinner party last night. We had a couple of friends over for the dinner. I prefer to have a few dinner parties in a small group to a single dinner party in a large group. The reason is that the more guests I have for the dinner, the less fun I have with my guests and the more work I have to do, including washing the dishes (as I don’t have a dishwasher) and cleaning the kitchen. A dinner party should not become a chores. It should be fun and a night to remember.
So last night, I made some pork and prawn dumplings cooked in two ways as the entrée. We have a galley style kitchen where our guests can actually sit on our Chinese wooden barstools. They love it because they can watch me cook while sipping their glass of champagne. We eat the dumplings at our galley style kitchen bench. The pan fried dumplings are served with a mix of Hoi-Sin sauce and chilli sauce, and the poached dumplings are served with finely sliced fresh ginger in a red wine vinegar.
When the main meal is ready to serve, the guests are ushered to our Indian style 2m long wooden table with two wooden benches on either side. The mood in the dining room is set with 2 small Buddhist monk statues holding a tea candle that we bought in Bangkok, Thailand and my iPOD playing an Asian inspired music in the background. The dining table is pre-set with a local Artisan design handmade plates by our friend, Bronwyn Theobald, matched with rustic stainless steel fork and spoon from Bangkok, Thailand and a couple of white and red wine glasses. The downlights are dimmed for that soft touch.
I cook three dishes for the main served with fragrant Jasmine rice. All three dishes are set at the centre of the table. This is how the Asians would eat their meal at the table. We share the food just like a communal feast. I present the three dishes at the table – a red curry beef cooked with homemade spices and slowly simmered for 10 hours, a garlic chilli chicken stir fry with basil leaves and a fried organic duck eggs (provided by our lovely farm boys) served with oyster sauce and garnish with chopped spring onions, red chilli and fried shallots.
Our friends enjoy the food and we have a bloody good night, just like in a small intimate restaurant except there is no bill on the table at the end of our dinner. 🙂 We had a lot of laughs and a range of discussions including what we thought about living in Tasmania and the recent reality TV hit program, MasterChef Australia.
Our friends don’t watch every single episode of the MasterChef program, unlike me. I am hook on the program as it draws closer to the final. I think the program has rekindled some interest in the kitchen for a lot of Australian family and inspire people to cook more at home and create that “special” storm dinner party to impress their friends and family. For me, my partner and I are hoping that Chris Badenoch does not take out the first Australian MasterChef price. My partner didn’t want him to win because he looks dirty and his hair is slimy and greasy with that ridiculous looking black hat. I wonder if he is baldy on top, which explains the hat. My favourite is Poh because of her creativeness and artistry in her food presentation, but I place my bet on Justine, who has the look and charm of a first Australian MasterChef. Yeah, she can cook too.
I will post my dinner recipe in the next few days if you are interested to have a go. So, why not create your own dinner party with your own theme? Have fun and enjoy eating.